|Key Release: Slaughter of the Soul (1995)|
If there’s a poster child for going out on top in the music world, it is Swedish band At the Gates. The quintet spent all of two years in the limelight before calling it quits in 1996 at the peak of their popularity, having just released their fourth album Slaughter of the Soul to international acclaim. Based around the talents of brothers Anders and Jonas Björler, At the Gates also featured Tomas Lindberg on vocals, and Adrian Erlandsson on drums (rhythm guitarist Martin Larsson was brought aboard after two albums).
While At the Gates’ first releases were fairly standard death metal, their third release Terminal Spirit Disease proved a breakthrough. With Larsson aboard, the band decided to experiment with instruments and song forms; a cello was even used as the basis for “And the World Returned,” a gorgeous instrumental piece in the center of the album. Erlandsson’s straightforward but powerful drumming proved an ideal background for Bjorler and Larsson’s guitar dueling, which often saw the two weave together separate lines to create dense rhythms and outstanding solos.
Just a year later, the band released Slaughter of the Soul, which crammed eleven songs into a neat 35-minute package. Replete with kinetic riffs and creative arrangements, the album pushed At the Gates to the fore of death metal. Along with In Flames’ The Jester Race and Dark Tranquillity’s The Gallery, it is often considered part of the ‘holy trinity’ of melodic death metal. Despite the band’s newfound success, the Björler brothers left the band for personal reasons, effectively ending its run. The three remaining members then founded The Haunted, a much more stable outfit who nonetheless failed to match At the Gates’ influence and reputation.
Since the band quit while at the height of its power, fans called relentlessly for a reunion for over a decade. In 2007, they were rewarded with a tour of At the Gates’ classic lineup. Rekindling the old fire, the band embarked on a world tour that sold out venues across Europe and North America. Their set at Wacken Open Air was recorded for a career-encompassing triple DVD titled The Flames of the End. Two years later, there was another set of reunion shows, and another full tour in 2012. While the band members insist there will be no follow up to their classic fourth album, At the Gates is alive and well. Though there have been countless imitators of its sound – one could argue that Slaughter sparked the entire 2000’s metalcore movement – At the Gates is and will remain a force in extreme music for the foreseeable future.